At this weekend’s NorAms in Canmore Drew Goldsack and Stefan Kuhn were able to sprint their way to victory – Kuhn in Saturday’s classic sprint and Goldsack in Sunday’s classic sprint – all but ensuring a spot on the Canadian Olympic Team. Kuhn will also race in the third NorAm held this morning, a 50km classic race. Watch for Kuhn to be a contender, as he has proven himself strong at this event by winning the 50 km classic race at last year’s Distance Nationals!
Several of the top U.S. racers came to Canmore to test their mettle against the Canadians, but with Olympic berths on the line, the Canadian racers put the hammer down and took impressive victories and stacked the podiums on both days of racing.
“It was a nerve racking weekend for Canadians looking to earn an Olympic spot with a win virtually guaranteeing a spot at the Olympic Games,” said Goldsack, “There were a lot of racers in the mix and numerous men with a realistic shot at qualifying for The Games.”
Both Kuhn and Goldsack were impressed with the course and track conditions at the Canmore Nordic Center. Goldsack describes the nearly 4 minute, hilly sprint course as “probably the toughest sprint course I’ve ever seen. . . it was a suffer fest out there!” but adds that he thinks this kind of format is good for North American racers to experience because “it seems that that is the trend on the World Cup and it is important to follow suit.”
Kuhn compared the course to Whistler, tough but excellent, with hard-track conditions on man-made snow. Kuhn agreed with Goldsack on the level of competition, saying it was “extremely tough considering the best of north American skiers are here and the Canadians were all peaking”. He was able to hold strong for the finals by skiing smart in the heats and saving enough energy to put the hammer down on the last hill in the finals, opening up a 20 meter gap on the competition to ensure the day’s victory and “the relief of making the Olympics.”
Sunday’s race course was exactly the same as Satuday’s, but the weather was cloudy and light flurries made the track a bit slick. As Saturday’s heats had gone fairly smoothly, Sunday’s heats saw some upsets: Kuhn and pre-race favorite Phil Widmer were displaced in the quarter finals and during the finals another favorite, Sean Crooks, was unable to avoid a crash which took him out of competition for the podium.
Sunday’s win was a must for Goldsack if he wanted to make the Olympic team. In the past year he has been recovering from an ankle injury which sidelined him from racing, and he was just starting to feel like his form was good when he came down with a mild case of flu just before the weekend’s races. Having barely eaten anything in the day prior to the sprint race, Goldsack used determination and will to power himself throughout the day’s races. He set the tone at the beginning of the day, winning the prelim by 5.5 seconds over Mark Iverson of the U.S., and continued to dominate through the heats to take the final victory.
Though Kuhn will contend for the victory in today’s 50km, Goldsack will head home to Red Deer for Christmas. It is still unknown if any extra skiers will get to join the World Cup team for the Tour de Ski at the beginning of January, and if so, both Kuhn and Goldsack would like to be there. If not, there are Eastern NorAms in Quebec, Olympic preparations and training camp in mid-January, and Canmore World Cups in February.
After that? Kuhn answers: “Then of course the Canadians will rock it in Whistler!”
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